Five Decades of Celebrating Christmas in Space (Part 1)

The new crew, as well as the incumbent "core" of Expedition 46, meet in Russia's Zvezda service module for the customary post-docking press conference. Photo Credit: NASA TV

Truly the voyage of Apollo 8 over the Christmas period in 1968 carried with it the most profound message of the Greatest Story Ever Told: a message of peace, goodwill and harmony to the inhabitants of Planet Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

For the first time, an American citizen recorded as many as three Christmases […]

'A Real Bright Star': 50 Years Since the First Space Rendezvous (Part 2)

Just 1.2 seconds after engine ignition on 12 December 1965, the Titan II suffered a premature shutdown. Instantly, Wally Schirra faced a life-or-death gamble: to hold his nerve or pull the ejection handle. He held his nerve and Gemini VI-A survived to fly another day. Photo Credit: NASA

“It’s death … or the ejection […]

'It's Death or the Ejection Seat': 50 Years Since the First Space Rendezvous (Part 1)

Backdropped by the grandeur of Earth, Gemini VII drifts serenely in the inky darkness, as seen from Gemini VI-A. Photo Credit: NASA

Just before Christmas in 1965—50 years ago, next week—a pair of Gemini spacecraft serenely circled Earth together and in close proximity. Aboard Gemini VII, astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell were midway through […]

'Open-Ended': What 1967 Might Have Been

The Apollo 1 crew, pictured during training, would have embarked on an open-ended mission of up to 14 days in duration in February-March 1967. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Figuratively and literally, February is a gloomy month, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere—a four-week period of darkness, plunging temperatures, and poor weather, with the […]

Ding-Dong Merrily On-Orbit: Celebrating Yuletide in Space (Part 1)

Truly the voyage of Apollo 8 over the Christmas period in 1968 carried with it the most profound message of the Greatest Story Ever Told: a message of peace, goodwill and harmony to the inhabitants of Planet Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

For the first time in history, two women will celebrate Christmas on Thursday, […]

'There Is a Santa Claus': The Voyage of Apollo 8 (Part 2)

Hanging in the black sky, five degrees above the lunar horizon and with the terminator crossing Africa, this astonishing view of the Home Planet represented the first occasion on which human eyes glimpsed “Earthrise” from the Moon. It is a timeless image which continues to draw inspiration and wonder. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty-six years ago, […]

'Launch Commit': The Voyage of Apollo 8 (Part 1)

Watched by a global audience of millions, and seemingly also by a crescent Moon, the first Saturn V ever trusted with human passengers takes flight on the morning of 21 December 1968. Photo Credit: NASA

Since July 1969, astronaut Mike Collins has achieved fame as “the other one” on the first lunar landing crew. […]

A Mission of 'Almosts': Project Gemini's First Rendezvous in Space (Part 2)

Gemini VI crewmen Tom Stafford (left) and Wally Schirra are pictured during an emergency water egress exercise. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost 50 years ago, the United States almost staged its first rendezvous mission between unpiloted and piloted vehicles in low-Earth orbit. An Atlas-Agena target craft was almost successfully launched, yet failed to achieve orbit, […]

'We Were at War': 45 Years Since Apollo 9 (Part 1)

The year 1969 was pivotal in so many ways for humanity. At its dawn, American astronauts had newly returned from circling the Moon, and by July it had produced our first piloted landfall on another world. These astonishing achievements continue to resonate today—particularly following 2012’s untimely loss of Neil Armstrong—but there is one mission, flown […]

Of Minds & Men: The First Rendezvous in Space (Part 2)

Beautiful view of Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford’s Gemini VI-A spacecraft, viewed by astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell aboard Gemini VII. Schirra’s gutsy decision to sit tight after the 12 December pad abort ensured that this historic rendezvous mission could go ahead. Photo Credit: NASA

“It’s death … or the ejection seat!” For […]